Ministry of Availability
Have you ever had that moment when a young person is sharing with you their struggles and you feel utterly helpless? It’s like the situation is too large, anything you have to share will be too superficial, or perhaps you are struggling to even understand the problem.
Often the temptation within us is to try and “fix” the person’s situation. Perhaps the “solution” is perceived to be a piece of inspirational advice, an eloquent prayer, or even taking on responsibility for the burden ourselves. This gut instinct within us is often called “the saviour complex”, and while it may present itself as care, sacrifice or love, in reality it can actually be more about satisfying our own individual needs, or an attempt to gain control over our own insecurities.
Take a moment to digest that last sentence.
Please know that this in no way diminishes the value and importance of helping someone in and through their struggle, however it is critical to remember that as Christians and youth leaders, before introducing programs, Bible passages and 5-step solutions, we are first and foremost called to a ministry of availability.
It was Perry Noble, speaking of ministry to students that recently said, “This generation does not care about our ability, they care about our availability.” There is an incredible power and grace in simply sitting and listening to a young person share what is happening in their life; the struggles, the pain, the conflict, and not needing to provide the answers.
People don’t need to be fixed to be accepted, right?
With this in mind, here are a few practical keys to embracing a ministry of availability:
- Physicality matters. Sometimes I will just sit beside a person and wait to see if they engage. Sitting beside a person tells them that you care, but do not want to impose. It is like presenting someone with a gift, leaving them to decide whether to open it. The subtext on an action such as this is massive.
- Learn the power of silence. Silence in conversations can be scary, especially when you are tempted to “fix” someone. With this mentality, silence can appear unproductive, prompting (false) feelings of inadequacy. The truth is that moments of silence are powerful and rare in a busy and tech-loaded society, creating a space to think and reflect within a noise-filled world. Remember, that even when words aren’t spoken, your ministry of availability remains.
- Listen, and listen well. Listening is very different from hearing. Hearing is an easy, passive process. Listening requires energy, motivation and patience. Learn the skill of reflection, with the motivation for any question asked being to help you understand and get clarity from the person, not to simply draw out more information.
What have been your experiences of simply making yourself available?
A printable version of this article can be found here: Ministry of Availability.